He pulled a Laramie County Tactical EMS (TEMS) Unit challenge coin from his bag and handed it over with a smile. He may have been 1,300 miles away from home on deployment in Louisiana, but his sense of pride and accomplishment in his team was still palpable.
Derek Hendren is the Tactical EMS Coordinator for American Medical Response’s (AMR) operation located in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and it’s a program that he is incredibly proud to be part of.
“Laramie County is a small community,” said Hendren. “We work alongside a lot of the local law enforcement officers, and we have a tremendous amount of respect and appreciation for them. It’s nice knowing that if something goes wrong, the TEMS team is trained and available to help.”
The program began in 2018 when the Cheyenne Police Department approached AMR and requested to add paramedics to their existing SWAT team. After months of planning, development, and training between the two organizations, the TEMS Unit was born.
The team boasts just six positions. While any qualified AMR paramedic can apply, the requirements are not for the faint of heart. In addition to meeting AMR’s strict set of hiring standards for paramedics, TEMS team members must also meet the standards put forth by the National Tactical Officers Association. These standards include a physical fitness test, demonstrated proficiency in technical and clinical decision-making, and TEMS-specific didactic and skills training.
“For the fitness test, you must complete an 800-meter run, a 400-meter run with a 25-pound object in each hand, a 20-pound vest and full gear including a gas mask, three full minutes of burpees, two full minutes of squats while wearing a 20-pound vest and full gear including a gas mask, and one full minute of pull-ups,” said Hendren.
In addition to the rigorous qualification testing, TEMS team members complete 10-hours of training every two weeks alongside members of the SWAT team.
All this testing and training is in preparation to do one of the most difficult jobs in law enforcement.
SWAT teams deploy against situations or threats that are beyond the capabilities of ordinary law enforcement. These are high-risk situations often involving threats of terrorism, active shooters, hostage-taking, riot response and even narcotics raids.
“The role of the TEMS unit is to help keep the mission moving,” said Hendren. “We may go interior with the SWAT team, or we may stage outside, but we are there to provide medical care if an officer, civilian or even a suspect is injured.”
The ambulance used by the AMR TEMS unit is even equipped differently.
“While the ambulance is very similar to a standard AMR vehicle, we also carry specialized equipment meant for tactical responses,” said Hendren. “We have extrication equipment on our ambulance so, if we need to exit a scene quickly with a patient, we are able to do that, we also carry different types of tourniquets than a standard ambulance does.”
The Cheyenne TEMS Unit is not just a point of pride for Hendren, but also for AMR. EMS and law enforcement agencies everywhere have a mutually supportive relationship, and this partnership is a great example of what can develop out of that relationship.